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Understanding The World Through Travel

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Sep '11

Understanding the World through Empathy

An important part of understanding the world and all of its crazyness is empathy.

If we can put ourselves into the shoes of another, and understand life from their perspective we can take great strides in understanding the behaviour of people around the world.

We should try to understand that all people are just doing what they think they should do to be happy. It’s the goal that everyone shares, however countless environmental influences can affect how it is expressed in different people.

The money hungry CEO, the terrorist, the corrupt government official, the martyr, the nun… If we want to understand these people we need to understand where their current mindsets came from. and to do that we need to understand the various influences that have shaped who they are during their entire lives on this earth.

Besides minor genetic influences which can be overcome, people are not born good or bad, corrupt or pure, or any of the characteristics we attribute to personalities. They are shaped by the world in which we live, the information they have, the skills they have developed, the mindsets that have been programmed into them through their experiences and the situations they have been exposed to.

Unfortunately we can’t take a person and experience what they have experienced and seen what they have seen and have our minds shaped the way theirs have been… however we can do little thought experiments, to imagine for ourselves what it would be like to grow up in different times or situations and to be shaped by different environments.

Through this empathy we can begin to understand the behaviour of others… that is not to say, we should excuse, condone or condemn the behaviour, but at least we should understand it.

An amazing talk in this area that I have seen recently is by Sam Richards called A radical experiment in empathy.

Check it out below.

Does this talk help you to understand your fellow humans a little better?

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